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Aroid Ethnobotany


Arisaema consanguineum

Arisaema consanguineum corms (and those of several other Arisaema species) the "Rhizoma Arisaematis", or nan xing of Traditional Chinese Medicine, are used sun-dried, cooked with raw ginger or processed with ox bile. Recent medical research has confirmed their use as a possible anti-cancer remedy. They are also used in remedies for coughs, tetanus and convulsive or spasmodic problems including epilepsy.



Amorphophallus rivieri - inflorescence

Amorphophallus konjac - inflorescence

Amorphophallus konjac (A.rivieri) tubers are processed to make noodles, slimming preparations, and vegetarian (vegan) 'gel' capsules.

The bark from an Heteropsis species is used for making baskets (it's Waorani name, otome, means "basket vine"), lashing together house beams and binding the halves of blowpipes. It is said to be the strongest liana of the forest. The Waorani also eat it's yellow fruit.

Cow.ntob.cagi, an unidentified climbing epiphyte that has a conspicuous red spadix and a compound leaf with 10 segments. The juice of the fruit is rubbed on the skin to draw out warble fly (Dermatobius hominus) larvae.

A Philodendron species, known as "ome" by some Waorani, is crushed in hot water and the decoction drunk for snake (Bothrops castelnaudi) bite

Edible Araceae spadices

Some spadices need to be cooked, others can be eaten raw !

According to Standley, P. C. (various papers in the 1930s) the young and tender spadices of Spathiphyllum friedrichsthalii and S. phryniifolium are cooked with eggs and eaten, he also says that bunches of ripe spadices could be found in local markets of Central America (El Salvador, and the Honduras).

Ceriman has been grown commercially in Florida, this fruit is the large, cone-shaped, cream coloured, aromatic spadix of Monstera deliciosa 'Swiss Cheese Plant' - said to taste somewhere between a pineapple and a banana. Ceriman is eaten raw, (but only when ripe/mature - otherwise the acrid and caustic raphides in the pulp will burn the mouth) in fruit salads or processed into drinks and ices, in Europe it has been used to flavour champagne.
Other Monstera are also said to be edible (M.dilacerata, M.pertusa).

Dried, pulverised Anthurium tessmannii spadices are added to food by Columbian natives (as a contraceptive) the same is done with Philodendron dyscarpium, and the unripened, dried, pulverised spadix of Urospatha antisylleptica. There are also other Aroid species of which parts are reportedly used for male contraception.

Caladium sororium fruit - berries and seeds - are edible when cooked.
The fruiting spadix of Montrichardia arborescens is eaten in many areas of Tropical America, the seeds are 'cooked or toasted' each inflorescence containing about 80 seeds.
Orontium aquaticum seeds are eaten like peas after drying or roasting.
Peltandra virginica spadices and berries can be boiled and eaten.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum produces a large yeild of sweetly acidic berries which are enjoyed by monkeys and bats as well as by man - the sugary juice is used to make jelly.
In Brazil P. selloum fruits are cooked in compotes. P. squamiferum berries have a sharp, peppery taste. The large fruits of P. warscewiczii are sweet juicy and edible.

While some parts of Symplocarpus foetidus 'Skunk Cabbage' have been considered valuable as food, attention must be paid as 5-hydroxy-tryptamine (and allied chemicals) may cause entheogenic effects by disturbing the normal brain Serotonine metabolism if eaten in conjunction with MAO inhibiting foods.

In years with poor yeilds of acorns, mother black bears (Ursus americanus) can maintain themselves and produce sufficient milk to raise cubs on a subsistance diet consisting almost entirely of 'Skunk Cabbage' !

Syngonium donnell-smithii, S.podophyllum, and S.salvadorense (when thoroughly ripe) all have edible fruit (S.ternatum is reported to be *very* poisonous).

The seeds of Typhonodorum lindleyanum are considered edible in Madagasca.


Philodendron craspedodromum leaves and petioles are cut, bundled and fermented for use as a fish poison (Columbia - Desana indians)

A Monstera species is crushed and heated in water to produce a decoction for rubbing on boils (the same genus as "cheese-plants")

Anthurium species' roots are crushed and infused for use as a headache remedy

Xanthosoma spp. From a 1552 Aztec Herbal.

Xanthosoma and Colocasia species are grown in kitchen gardens

The milky sap of Syngonium podophyllum is dabbed onto ant bites to relieve the itching

Arum maculatum:
(Lords and Ladies, Starchwort, Adder's root, Bobbins, Friar's cowl, Kings and Queens, Parson and Clerk, Ramp, Quaker, Wake Robin)

Tubers were dried and heated to produce a starch used in Elizabethan England to stiffen ruffs.

Said to be edible, if dried and baked.
(A.maculatum is said to be one of the more toxic members of the genus, please do not experiment without due caution)

Portland Arrowroot (Portland Sago) used to make puddings or blancmange, was a starch obtained from washed, cooked, and pounded tubers.

Cyprus powder, a C.18th Parisian cosmetic is said to have contained A.maculatum starch.

Juice extracted from the tuber was used in Italy to remove freckles and skin blemishes (ow !)

In parts of France the residue from soaked stalks of flowering A.maculatum was used as a laundry soap

Medicinally said to be purgative, stimulant, and diuretic, it has also been used, topically, to treat ringworm.


More Araceae; join the Aroid-l mailing list, loads of good links, find out how and where you can grow them - and see some truely magnificent photos.

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Botanical name:

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